All those yellow ribbons and sentimental statements about how we love our soldiers count for nothing in the cold world of reality in the Age of Bush.
Hundreds of Army Reserve and National Guard troops returning home after being wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone months without pay or medical benefits they were entitled to receive, military officials and government auditors said Thursday.
“This is the equivalent of financial and medical ‘friendly fire,’ ” Rep. Thomas M. Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee (news – web sites), told military officials at a hearing.
The disclosures represent the latest in a list of problems confronting many returning war veterans, including shortages of physicians, a lack of mental healthcare and spotty medical treatment.
And it gets much, much more depressing.
“A lot of the guys can’t deal with the bureaucratic problems,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Allen of Blairstown, N.J., wearing an eye patch and leaning on a cane as he testified at the congressional hearing. “They give up somewhere in the process and just go home.”
Several wounded troops testified before the House panel Thursday. A Special Forces soldier who lost a leg to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan said he did not receive $5,000 in paychecks. Another veteran with knee and back injuries said he was forced to move in with his in-laws after missing paychecks totaling $3,886.
Allen, a 14-year Army veteran who serves with the National Guard’s 20th Special Forces Group, has a brain injury and other injuries to his legs, back, neck and eyes resulting from a helicopter accident and a grenade blast.
But Allen said it wasn’t until he returned home for extended treatment that his “real troubles began.”
He had to reapply for coverage every 90 days and was at times denied pay, medical coverage and access to his military base.
And the other side wonders why we complain when they throw a one-night party for $40 million. Let “our boys” eat cake.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.